Rating: T (for situations)
Characters: Jared, Jensen, Christian, Misha, Jim Beaver, and Chad
Genre: RPF, hurt/comfort
Disclaimer: None of these people belong to me; they all belong to themselves. None of this is true in any way, shape or form. I made it all up.
Warnings: Mental age regression and a form of infantilism which is emotional and not sexual in nature, mentions of past child abuse. Younger!abused!Jensen.
Word Count: 5,630 this part
Summary: Timestamp in the Innocents 'verse which can be found here: Innocents 'Verse Masterpost. This story takes place in between For Love of Innocents and Nightmares of Innocents. I highly recommend reading the other stories in this 'verse first. Jensen's parents are finally being brought to justice and Jared is determined to shield the traumatized young man from any possible fallout from the trial. Meanwhile, Misha makes an understandable mistake and Christian makes a new friend who really wants to meet Jensen.
A/N: This chapter was probably one of the more difficult chapters I've had to write and part of what took me so long to finish the story. There is a lot of disscussion about some horrific child abuse. Please don't read if that is a trigger for you. If you stop by to read and you enjoy the story, please leave me some love at the end. (((Hugs)))
The next day
Jensen's emotions, always startlingly clear in his eyes, speak a thousand words even though his mouth never forms a single one. Jared usually has no trouble reading him and right now he has quite obviously resigned himself to whatever is to come while trying to put on a brave face so as not to worry the three men hovering nearby.
Everything has been done to make this meeting with the attorneys go as smoothly as possible. Everything he, Christian, and Misha could think up with a little more help from Doctor Jim over the phone. The meeting will be held, not only in their house, but in Jensen’s nursery while he sits in Jared’s lap in the rocking chair. His favorite blanket will be wrapped around him and Mr. Bun will be in his lap. Soft music will be playing and Jared has installed a humidifier with lavender water in the room. They have a bottle of milk nearby, just in case he wants it, and will not only allow, but encourage Jensen to suck his thumb if it will help. All five of his senses will be engaged in telling him he’s in a safe place with people who care deeply about him. Jared just hopes it will be enough.
All of this has already been cleared with the DA’s office. Two people will be coming, one man and one woman. Jared was assured that these two know what they are doing and have been involved in cases like Jensen’s before. Jared seriously doubts that last part. How could they? Other cases like Jensen’s don’t exist, at least not that he has ever heard. Still, they’ve done what they could to prepare the attorneys for what they will see when they get here. Doctor Jim explained everything to them in advance.
The lessons learned from Chad’s visit have been put to good use. No surprises being the most important one. They won’t be caught unawares when the attorneys get here. Ten minutes before the scheduled arrival time, Jared picks Jensen up, wraps the blanket around him, and sits in the rocking chair.
“You’re being very brave. I know you can do this. The people coming are nice. They’re just going to talk to you, that’s all,” he tells his sweet boy in a low voice, instilling as much confidence in it as he can. “I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere. I won’t let anything bad happen to you. I promise.”
Jensen’s eyes dart around the room. They land briefly on Christian where he’s standing, shoulder propped against the nursery doorway, arms crossed over his chest. He’s unnaturally still, every muscle tightly coiled, as fierce as a mountain lion ready to pounce. He’s obviously in full-on protective mode. Next, Jensen’s attention flickers over to Misha who is fiddling around with the iPod. The quiet strains of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major fill the nursery and Misha straightens up from his crouch over the device, apparently satisfied with his choice.
The doorbell rings at exactly 10:00am. Jensen startles slightly, so Jared shushes him and begins rocking while humming softly along with the music until he settles again. Christian gives no sign of moving from his self-appointed post in the doorway which leaves Misha to go let their guests in.
They hear the door open and Misha say, “Come on in. He’s back this way, follow me. He’s waiting for you, but he’s scared, so just...go easy on him, okay?”
Jared recognizes that short combination of warning and plea as a variation of the one Misha had greeted him with the first time he met Jensen at the hospital. The memory makes him smile and brings a tear to his eye at the same time.
Christian’s steely-eyed glare latches onto the people who sidle past him into the room. They have to squeeze through the doorway sideways because he doesn’t give an inch. The cop can be more than a little intimidating when he wants to be.
To their credit, the new arrivals enter the room quietly and cross to the side of the room furthest away from the rocking chair, obviously giving Jensen plenty of space. Luckily, the nursery is a large room that easily accommodates five people along with the rocking chair, chest of drawers, and adult-sized crib. Neither of them seem surprised or concerned by the situation they’ve walked into and that, at least, is a good start.
Jensen immediately shoves his thumb into his mouth and Jared croons, “That’s it, baby. Whatever you need to do. Whatever will get you through this.” The boy looks down at the floor, long lashes fanning his cheeks. The bashful expression along with the caramel-colored freckles generously speckled across his nose and cheeks make him look far younger than his nineteen years.
The woman speaks up first, addressing the room at large. “Hello, it’s nice to meet you all. My name is Rachel Miner.” Her hair is blond, worn loosely down past her shoulders. She’s wearing a black jumpsuit that somehow looks professional and also casual, and very red lipstick. But the most striking thing about Rachel Miner is the golden-horned unicorn she has tucked under her arm. It’s about two feet long and every color of the rainbow in pastel hues. A long, flowing mane hides its eyes from view.
“And I’m Matt, Matt Cohen. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to come speak with you. We really appreciate it.” Notably, he isn’t carrying a plushie of any kind. He does, however, have a black leather briefcase. Hip against the dresser in a relaxed pose, Matt smiles. He has dark, wavy hair parted on the side and a boyish face with kind, grey eyes. Easy-going and friendly, his demeanor gives Jared some hope that maybe this isn’t going to be the disaster he’s been fearing. Although, they can’t afford to take that for granted just yet.
“Hi, I’m Jared,” he responds. “Misha is the one who let you in. The guy guarding the doorway is Christian. And this is Jensen.” His arms are fully occupied holding his boy, so he indicates each person with a nod of his head, giving Jensen’s crown a kiss at the end of the introductions. “Sorry, I can’t offer you a seat. There’s only the one in here, I’m afraid.”
“That’s okay,” Rachel says. “I like sitting on the floor anyway.” She matches action to word and plops down onto the carpeting, back against the crib, legs straight out in front of her, and unicorn nestled in the crook of her arm.
Matt follows suit as does Misha. This puts everyone except Jared and Christian on a level lower than Jensen, making them much less threatening. These people really do know what they’re doing. Jared smiles his approval.
“We know it’s Jensen you’re here to see, not us, so Misha, Christian and I will keep quiet for the most part,” Jared explains. “We’re only here to make Jensen feel more at ease.”
“Understood. Thank you.” Planting his feet on the floor with his elbows propped on his raised knees, Matt steeples his index fingers and places them on his chin like he’s deep in thought. “Where to start,” he murmurs. Then, he reaches into his briefcase and pulls out a tablet. The device powers up, and Matt begins scrolling through what appear to be pages of notes.
Jared looks at Jensen to see how he’s taking everything so far. His eyes are riveted on the unicorn as he sucks intently on his thumb.
Rachel also notices his focus. Stroking the silky mane, she asks, “Do you like her? Her name is Sparkle. She’s a good friend of mine. I brought her along because sometimes it helps to have someone to snuggle when you have to talk about difficult things. I was going to see if maybe you wanted to hold her while we talked today, but I see you already have a special friend with you.” She tilts her head at Jensen’s stuffed rabbit. “What’s your bunny’s name?”
This is a question Jensen can’t answer using a simple nod or shake of the head. Jared watches him closely to see what he’ll do because, as expressive as Jensen’s face always is, it’s not going to be enough to give these people the answers they’re probably hoping for. The way he answers this first, innocuous question could determine how successful the rest of the meeting will be.
If anyone hopes that Jensen will suddenly pop his thumb out of his mouth and begin speaking eloquently after two years of utter silence, however, they’re sadly disappointed. What he does still surprises Jared though. After a moment’s consideration, he gives Mr. Bun a little hug, then, holds him out towards Rachel as though the toy might be able to convey the requested knowledge itself were she to hold him.
A quiet inhalation comes from Misha, and Jared understands why. They’ve never seen Jensen willingly trust his best friend to anyone’s care other than his own, not even one of them. Mr. Bun is always either in his crib or in his lap. He will let Jared or Misha take the bunny from him if they ask, but he fidgets until they give it back to him, and he never offers it to them voluntarily. It’s significant that he’s allowing Rachel, a stranger, to hold the much beloved toy.
She reaches out a careful hand and takes the floppy bunny, supporting it’s body as if it was a real animal. “Oh, he’s quite a proper gentleman, isn’t he?” she says while gazing at the rabbit’s serious face. “And he’s obviously quite fond of you.” A scratch behind the ears and a rub of the velvety nose later, the bunny is back in Jensen’s arms. His name is still a mystery to her, but that’s hardly important in comparison to the huge trust built during an exchange that might have seemed inconsequential to an outsider.
In a move that could be comfort for the rabbit or for himself or possibly both, Jensen cuddles Mr. Bun against his chest, tucking the fuzzy head under his chin.
Matt lowers his tablet to rest on his knee, and all attention turns to him. “I hate to do this. I really do. But I’m going to have to bring up some unpleasant subjects.” He sighs, looking down at the tablet for a moment and then back up at Jensen. “Remembering what happened to you in the past is hard, I know, and I’m sorry I have to bring it up, but whatever information you can give us will help when we question the defendants. The more we know without their cooperation, the more leverage we’ll have. If they think we have the whole story already, they may lower their guards and let something slip that they wouldn’t otherwise.”
Matt’s choice of words shows he has taken Dr. Jim’s warnings and instructions to heart. By referring to his parents as the ‘defendants’, a word he doesn’t associate with the horror he suffered as a child, Matt very deliberately avoided triggering Jensen’s fear. Jared gives Matt a small nod to show he noticed and appreciates his tact.
“If you need to take a break for whatever reason, just give us a sign and we’ll stop,” Matt continues. “Okay, so we have the evidence from your medical records as well as the evidence gathered by Officer Kane and the police department from the house where you used to live.” His gaze flicks briefly over to Christian. “We can make inferences from that evidence, but what I’d like to do today is to tell you what conclusions we’ve come to and ask you if we’re right or wrong. Maybe you’ll be able to provide details we don’t already have.”
Jensen’s response is to burrow into his blanket and clutch Mr. Bun tighter as though trying to ground himself in what must feel like evidence of a completely different kind - evidence that he’s safe now.
“Let’s go ahead and get started,” Jared answers for him. The sooner they start, the sooner this will be over.
Matt inclines his head. “Okay. I’ll begin with the conclusions we’re most confident we have right, the ones for which we have the most evidence.” He consults his tablet again. “There was a small closet in the back of the house with nothing inside it except some tattered clothes and rags in a pile on the floor. One corner of the closet was soiled with fresh as well as older human feces and urine. The door locked from the outside and the inside had deep grooves carved into it, consistent with someone trying to claw their way out. Forensics found blood in the grooves. I have pictures of the closet, taken by the police.” Matt places a hand on the briefcase at his side.
“No,” Christian says, voice a tightly controlled growl that perfectly reflects the outrage welling up inside Jared at the thought of subjecting Jensen to pictures of the place where he was kept locked up and miserable for all those years. Hearing about it is bad enough, actually seeing it is more than he thinks he himself can take, much less making Jensen look at them.
Matt’s solemn eyes regard Jensen for a moment. “Perhaps you’re right, no pictures,” he agrees and pulls his hand away from the briefcase.
Other than the barest movement from the shallow breaths he’s taking, Jensen has gone stock-still in Jared’s arms. Even the thumb-sucking motion has ceased, although the digit is still held fast between his lips.
In a voice laced with compassion, Rachel asks, “Jensen, how long did they make you stay in the closet at a time?”
The boy lifts one shoulder, lets it fall.
“More than a couple hours?”
“More than a day?”
Rachel’s voice takes on an incredulous quality, becoming more breathy and higher in pitch. “How many days at a time?”
Jensen lifts the bandaged hand he has curled around Mr. Bun and holds up three fingers, shakes his head uncertainly, and changes his answer to two, then back to three.
Jensen isn’t sure how long he was alone in that closet, Jared realizes. He tries to imagine what it must have been like, stuck in a dark, cramped closet, hour after hour, day after day. No room to lie down comfortably. No way of knowing how much time had passed other than the growing hunger in his belly, the parched feeling of dehydration, the air growing more and more stale. The imperative need to relieve himself and no other option than to foul in one corner of the tiny space. Jared’s breath comes faster as he makes himself live in that moment, feel the panic Jensen must have felt of not knowing whether they would ever let him out, if this might be the time they forgot about him completely and left him alone to die.
“How old were you when they started putting you in the closet, Jensen?” Rachel asks.
Leaning over the side of the chair, Jensen raises his palm about three feet over the floor, indicating a small child.
Of course, he doesn’t know how old he was, just that he was small. Three or four years old, Jared guesses, and he revises the images in his head to include all that happening to a little kid, barely older than a toddler - hungry, alone, confused, frightened. His stomach cramps as though it’s going to expel the cereal he had for breakfast. He clenches his teeth together, refusing to give in to the urge.
“You were very young when it started.” Rachel comes to the same conclusion. “And it never stopped. They continued to put you in that closet and leave you in there for days, even when you got older. Even when you could hardly fit?” This last is asked in a tone tinged with anger.
Jensen stirs uneasily against him. The hand clutching Mr. Bun releases its hold to grip a fistful of Jared’s shirt instead, beseeching his protection. Clenching that hand can’t feel good because that’s his burned hand and it hasn’t fully healed yet.
“It’s okay,” Jared whispers into his hair, fitting his larger hand on top of Jensen’s until he feels the fist unclench.
Looking contrite, Rachel says, “I’m sorry,” in a modulated register. “I’m not angry at you, Jensen.”
“Okay, I think we’ve all had enough of that topic. Let’s move on,” Matt interjects. He refers to the tablet briefly before continuing. “You were examined by the hospital staff when you were brought in. Aside from the obvious wound,” Matt gestures at his own belly, “they found numerous other injuries, many of them older and scarred over, some of them more recent. Signs of broken bones that healed improperly, skull fractures, burn marks.” Consulting the tablet again, he takes a deep breath. “Contusions, bruises, neglect, dehydration, malnourishment...” He trails off.
“The conclusions we’ve come to are mostly self-evident,” Rachel takes over when Matt blinks hard and turns his head away. “But we have to ask anyway, just to be sure. Jensen, the defendants have tried to explain away all your injuries by saying you were accident prone as a child. They say you broke the fingers in your hand by falling down the stairs. They also say they kept you at home because you hurt yourself so often, they were afraid of letting you go out. Is any of that true?”
Jensen makes a strangled, snuffling sort of sound and shakes his head.
Christian’s face has gone an angry shade of red and his lips are pursed so tightly together he looks like he’s trying to hold back a volcanic eruption through sheer force of will.
“We didn’t think so.” Rachel twines her fingers through the unicorn’s mane. They get so twisted, Jared wonders how she’s going to get them untangled from the mess she’s made of the long, flowing strands. “What we think is they started abusing you from a very young age and the abuse continued throughout your entire childhood. According to the doctors’ reports, the injuries you sustained are much more consistent with physical abuse than with accidental trips and falls.”
Matt takes a deep breath in through his nose. His gaze is locked on the abstract drawing taped on the wall next to the rocking chair. It’s one of Jensen’s latest crayon masterpieces - a midnight-blue background on which there are flecks and smudges of black. The black smudges look like indistinct figures floating in isolation. It’s eerily beautiful.
“I’m sorry. This is unprofessional. I didn’t think I would be this affected.” Matt’s attention swings away from the drawing, flashing onto Jensen, and then to Jared. “It’s only...I have a son. He’s five years old and I just...I can’t imagine...” he says haltingly, as though the words keep getting caught in his throat.
Jensen shifts and Jared’s arms tighten instinctively. But Jensen squirms until Jared realizes he’s trying to get down. Releasing him, he watches, stunned, as Jensen crawls off the chair and over to Matt. Jensen leans in until their foreheads are touching, something he’s done once or twice with Jared when he thinks Jared is upset. It’s an act of forgiveness, understanding, solace, so heart-wrenching that Jared gets light-headed from the breath he’s holding.
Only Jensen. Only someone as sweetly innocent and sensitive as Jensen, would want to console the attorney who is questioning him about the abuse he suffered his whole life.
Jared’s eyes sting with tears. He blinks them away. Jensen isn’t crying, and if Jensen can relive this horror without crying, Jared can too.
The moment lasts only a few seconds, and then Jensen is clambering back up into his lap. Jared snugs the blanket around him again, murmuring, “That was very kind of you, sweetheart.”
Matt dashes a hand across his face. “Thank you for that, Jensen.”
Sadness rolls through the room like a heavy fog, pressing in on him from all sides. Misha has his eyes closed and is rubbing at his forehead as though it aches. Uncle Christian is glaring out the window, his stormy eyes red-rimmed. Daddy is busy smoothing the blanket up onto Jensen’s shoulders. With a hitching breath, he grazes one hand over the nape of Jensen’s neck, whisper soft.
Sparkle’s friend, Rachel, is watching him in that thoughtful way Doctor Jim uses a lot, while she absently pets the unicorn’s colorful side. Sparkle is doing a good job of making Rachel feel not so sad. But her other friend, Matt, doesn’t have anyone to help him not be sad. That’s why Jensen tried to help in the only way he knew how. Although the sadness hasn’t really gone away, the air seems a little less suffocating. Maybe what he did helped Matt. He hopes so.
He doesn’t like when other people are sad, especially not Daddy, Uncle Christian, and Misha. Even though he’s managed to keep his own sadness at bay up until this point, the sadness permeating the room seeps inside him now, pulled there by echoes of his past, like calling to like. His chin wobbles.
The scar on his belly twinges. He pushes a hand underneath the grey sweatshirt he’s wearing to rub at it, feeling the raised flesh against his palm. There are other scars there too, some of the older ones noticed by the people at the hospital. Most of them he remembers getting. The ones on or around his stomach were usually given when he was being a greedy brat and asking for food. A couple he doesn’t remember getting at all, but they were probably for the same thing. He was a greedy brat a lot.
“Are you hungry? We have a bottle ready for you,” Daddy says.
His uneasy stomach does a slow roll. The last thing he wants to do now is eat. He shakes his head.
Matt clears his throat. “Okay, just a couple more questions to go.”
The air prickles his skin like there’s a thunderstorm coming. Jensen looks outside, expecting to see dark clouds on the horizon. Instead, he sees a serene, blue sky, untroubled by a single cloud, which means the electrically-charged feeling is coming from inside the room.
Silent and still, Matt stares at the tablet in his lap.
No one says anything. They’re all watching Matt, waiting for him to ask his next question.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jensen sees Rachel moving. She scoots closer to Matt and places Sparkle on top of his tablet. “I think you need her more than I do.”
A quiet chuckle rustles through the room. It’s not exactly a happy sound, but the tension eases.
Matt holds Sparkle around the torso so that her four hooves dangle between his raised knees. “I think you’re right,” he says with a crooked smile for Rachel. The smile fades as he looks forward again. “Jensen, the defendants claim you were home schooled. Did they teach you how to read or write when you were younger?”
Teach him how to read? The very idea is foreign to him. He tries to remember a time when he was taught how to do anything. Oh, he learned plenty of lessons, most of them taught with a fist or a belt. How to read wasn’t one of them.
Why would anyone in that scary house teach him about anything? Teaching would require them to spend time with him, talk to him, show him things. And why would they want to do that? Why would he want them to? Any attention he received from them was violent, painful, and scary. Usually when he was naughty. Most of his time in that house was spent trying to be good, which meant quiet and invisible. Anything other than perfect obedience brought swift punishment.
Jensen can’t meet Matt’s searching gaze, so he looks at Sparkle instead as he shakes his head from side to side in answer to the question. No, he was never taught how to read. The admission makes him feel embarrassed because everyone knows how to read except him.
The unicorn is facing him, one of its glittering eyes partially visible behind the disheveled mane. He thinks she would be happier is she could see properly. Before he knows he’s going to do it, his hand stretches out to smooth the silky strands out of her face, finger-combing out the tangles.
“Do you want to hold her?” Matt asks.
Yes, he wants that very much. Mr. Bun wouldn’t mind. In fact, he’s fairly sure that Mr. Bun would like to meet her. The only thing holding him back is Matt. Matt needs her to keep from feeling too sad. Jensen already has Mr. Bun. It wouldn’t be fair for him to have two friends, leaving Matt with none. And besides, Sparkle might be tired of getting passed around.
Still...Matt did offer. Maybe it would be okay. Daddy will know.
Jensen twists around so he can see Daddy’s face over his shoulder.
“Do you want to hold the unicorn, sweetheart? You can if you want.” Daddy gives him an encouraging, if watery, smile.
His fingers twitch. A familiar longing rushes through him for something he desperately wants, yet dares not take.
To Matt, daddy says, “You’ll have to put it in his hand. He won’t take it from you. We think his pare-, the defendants, beat him or worse any time he took something without it being specifically given to him, whether it was food or anything really. We think he was in the kitchen to get something to eat, probably because he was starving, and that’s why his m-, why the defendant stabbed him. When he first got here, we hand fed him because he wouldn’t reach for food, wouldn’t even take it off a plate put in front of him, no matter how hungry he was.” With a note of pride, he adds, “He eats by himself now.”
Matt makes a wordless sound before leaning forward and putting Sparkle in the hand not already wrapped around Mr. Bun. “Here, you take her. I think she wants to come say hello.”
Jensen is awestruck for a moment. Sparkle is like nothing he’s even seen before. From the tip of her plush, golden horn to the lush strands of her lilac tail, she radiates a joyous, self-confidence. Her mouth is stitched in a jaunty smile and her ears are perked forward like she’s anticipating the next great adventure. She’s fearless. She’s magnificent.
He squishes the soft unicorn body against his chest, giving her a little cuddle. Then, one hand around Mr. Bun, the other around Sparkle, he brings the two animals face to face. Sparkle nuzzles Mr. Bun’s nose with the tip of her velveteen muzzle, and Mr. Bun leans into the caress, letting his long ears fall forward so that both their faces are hidden from view. They seem to be telling each other secrets. The contrast between Mr. Bun’s snowy-white and Sparkle’s pastels is striking. Distinctly different, yet complimentary.
Jensen is so focused on the budding friendship in front of him that he doesn’t notice anyone else’s reaction to the meeting until Rachel says, “I think they like each other.” He looks up to see her beaming at him.
Mr. Bun is nothing like Sparkle. He isn’t fearless, and he doesn’t go on any great adventures. He’d like to though. Maybe Sparkle will show him how.
Mr. Bun retreats to the crook of Jensen’s elbow where he feels safest. After giving Sparkle a snuggle goodbye, Jensen holds her out to Rachel.
“She looks pretty happy with you. Perhaps you should keep her. She could live here with you and your bunny.” Rachel clasps her hands together, a small smile on her face.
Jensen considers the offer. It’s tempting. But no, Mr. Bun isn’t ready for the kind of excitement Sparkle would bring into his life if she were to live with them. Not yet. Hoping she’ll understand and not be mad at him, he continues to hold Sparkle out until Rachel takes her back.
“That’s okay,” she says. “They can be long distance pals.”
Jensen isn’t sure what being long distance pals would mean, but it sounds nice.
Misha is looking at Rachel, his expression strange, even for Misha. His mouth is parted slightly and there’s a dreamy look in his eyes.
“I was wondering something, Jensen. I know you don’t talk now, but do you know how to talk?” Rachel asks. “Did you ever learn?”
Jared shifts underneath him like he’s trying to find a more comfortable position. Or like he very much wants to know the answer to the question. Jensen doesn’t know which.
He used to be able to talk. Not very well because he didn’t have anyone to talk to. He learned mostly from the limited amount of television he saw when he crept very quietly into the room while someone else was watching. The programs on the tv in that house were usually sports programs or news stations. The occasional movie. Nothing educational. He learned more from the commercials than anything else.
Nothing good every came from his talking though. In fact, he can’t be certain because it all happened so long ago, but he thinks that up until the point when he learned how to talk, the other people who lived in that house didn’t know if he was a good boy or a bad one. It was only when he started talking that it became clear how very bad he was, and that’s when they had to start punishing him. The punishments were to teach him how to be good. At least, that’s what they always told him. He sure wishes he hadn’t turned out to be such a bad boy. Things would have been different, he’s sure, if only he’d been born good.
These days he only talks to Mr. Bun. It’s safer that way. Even though he doesn’t say the words out loud, Mr. Bun understands him. Each word gets methodically sounded out inside his head. All his inner-most thoughts. His hopes and his fears. Mr. Bun knows them all.
Rachel is waiting patiently for his answer, so he nods then puts his bandaged index finger against his lips.
“You do know how to talk, but you had to be quiet?” she guesses in a pretend whisper, mimicking his gesture with her own finger pressed against her lips.
She has it kind of right, but not fully. He didn’t just have to be quiet. He had to be absolutely silent. To demonstrate, he clamps both hands over his mouth and shakes his head so violently it makes him dizzy.
An angry grunting noise comes from the doorway, the first sound his uncle has made since Rachel and Matt arrived. In a voice rough like tires on gravel he says, “They beat him if he talked. I’d stake my badge on it.”
“Is that right, Jensen? The defendants beat you for talking?” Rachel asks.
Slowly, Jensen nods his head, eyes averted, ashamed of how bad he was.
“What they did to you was not all right. They were wrong to hurt you,” Daddy’s arms tighten around him. “I hope one day you’ll believe that.” The words sound stuffy, almost like he has a bad cold even though he was fine earlier this morning.
Matt touches his tablet and the screen goes dark. “That was very helpful,” he says. “You’ve helped clarify a lot for us. Thank you. Before we go, I just wanted to give you the opportunity to share with us anything else you can think of. Anything you want us to know, that we haven’t already covered. I’m sure we’ve missed a lot and we want to be your voice in that courtroom. We want to speak out on your behalf, make sure you’re heard.”
The question swirls around inside his already spinning head. There’s so much they don’t know, and Jensen has no way of explaining it to them without opening his mouth and beginning to scream. If he does that, there’s a possibility he’ll never stop. How can he make them understand the abject horror he feels at what was done to him? How can he show them what his life was like, living in constant, suffocating fear? His hands creep up towards his throat.
Up until this point in the meeting, he’s been able to keep his memories locked away behind high, thick walls; walls made up of Daddy’s solid presence behind him, Uncle Christian standing guard at the door, and Misha’s consistency and caring. Sparkle has helped too. And, of course, Mr. Bun. Ever since the questions started, he’s been poking holes in the walls, so that he can see his memories from a safe distance, keeping himself as far away from them as possible.
But the holes have added up, too many for the barrier to withstand. The structure of the walls begins to crumble. He feels the tremors begin. They start in his hands and travel up his arms to his shoulders. Soon his entire body is quaking, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. The walls crash down on him, crush him underneath years of abuse and neglect. Fingers close around his neck, squeezing, squeezing. Rough, calloused hands throttle him, cutting off his air supply, shaking him like a rag doll until black spots dance before his eyes, and then everything goes dark.
To be continued
Start at Chapter 1